HRLTT – Brexit: Crucial Planning for HR

Brexit Image HRLTTIt’s been one year since the Brexit decision was made and as we draw closer to March 2019, businesses are preparing for the inevitable change that will take place throughout the UK. Since HR plays a prominent leadership role within an organisation, it’s during times of uncertainty, like Brexit, when the human resource partnership becomes highly recognised and valued.

These are the thoughts and takeaways from a HR Leadership Think Tank held on Tuesday 3rd October, hosted by State Street Bank’s Samantha Kemsley (Head of HR). This Think Tank sought to discuss approaches to the subject of “Brexit: Crucial Planning for HR”. During this Think Tank, we shared insights, ideas, and experiences of managing the high-levels of uncertainty during times of political change and addressed the nuances of preparing for Brexit whilst covering the important topics below:

  • The future of talent within the UK and how talent pools and sources will change.
    • I.e. Workers may feel incentivised to leave the UK and move to where there is more perceived stability (i.e. Eastern Bloc, Poland labour is disappearing).
    • For workers from the EU, Britain doesn’t feel as welcoming as it had before.
  • The complexity of having an international HQ during Brexit.
  • The strategic and planning issues surrounding the changes and the importance of continuing to create valuable employee value propositions (EVPs) to attract the best talent.
  • HR’s role in stress-testing sustainable contingency plans across EMEA in relation to talent.
    • HR should review UK internationals on Pan-EMEA basis, i.e. who are they and where are they located?
    • Review management’s reaction to Brexit: should the business pay for everyone’s
      right to work?
    • Perform right to work checks through HR system, which is challenging since data
      protection does not enforce workers to declare their nationality.
    • Create voluntary questionnaires to find answers.

During these times of extensive legislative changes, HR needs to strategise various (short-term and long-term) contingency plans regarding talent.

Promote Positivity and Stability during Times of Change

During times of change and uncertainty within an organisation, it’s natural for employees to feel anxious about their future. When this feeling of uncertainty is combined with inevitable legislative changes, it’s time for HR to step-in, be as transparent about the changes as possible, and  promote organisational stability. The following provides an unofficial guide on how to identify the workers affected in your organisation and how to promote this message:

  • Identify the population within the workforce who are directly affected by the change, i.e. those that fall under the EU’s laws.
  • The business needs to establish best practices for approaching workers and prepare for potential backlash, i.e. what promises should the business make, will the company support their EU workers, should the company enact policies around non-EU migrants, and how should the company react if they’re accused of discrimination?
  • Part of the best practices during this change should include when to approach the affected worker and who should approach them, i.e. is it HR’s responsibility or should the direct manager perform one-on-one meetings with their employees?
  • HR should provide reassurance to the affected employees and appreciate the nuances of right to remain, i.e. if someone is already in the UK then it’s likely that they’ll be able to stay in the UK, albeit the employer may have to jump through some hoops. It’s important to update the worker on current status and development of rules.
  • Understand that Brexit may cause a behavioural and mind-set change causing affected employees to feel less welcome in their home and workplace.
  • At the end of the day, people want to feel comfortable in their workplace. It’s important for HR to recognise that the consequences of Brexit are uncertain and that although you aren’t aware of all the implications of Brexit, you’re there to support your employees.

Important questions that the company should consider, include:

  • What is the impact on a worker if they have overseas secondments and assignments?
  • With the 27th October deadline quickly approaching for worker consultation on migration to the UK, how difficult will it be to sponsor EU workers?
  • How should the company brace for Brexit? There’s a big push across Europe to headhunt and attract talent from the UK.

Start Developing Contingency Plans Now

As Brexit looms across the UK, businesses need to be cognizant of potential policy changes and need to start developing their contingencies plans now. Topics to consider when developing contingency policies, include:

  • Being aware that the changes will affect not only employees, but also the business’s products and premises.
  • Being ready for potential changes surrounding compliance, control, and delegation of responsibilities.
  • Researching the new talent pools, salary ranges, etc. and determining how to grow new talent.
  • Questioning the impact of having HR Shared Services elsewhere, i.e. consider outsourcing and various new operating models.

The Value of HR during Legislative Policy Changes

It is imperative for companies to brace for Brexit’s potential impact on the economy. With the legislative policy changes, it’s very possible that the popular tech hubs may change from London to Berlin. It’s conversations like these that businesses need to consider. When working with the new policy changes, HR is the invaluable department for solving issues ranging from visa renewals to resourcing new talent. When partnering with a business during this time of change, it’s important to ask:

  • What are the impacts of Brexit for your company? Is your company nimble enough to
  • Is your company interested in searching for talent in a wider talent pool? Encourage the leadership team to discuss the implications of Brexit on the company.
  • Question where talent is currently coming from and identify other recruitment opportunities within the UK.
  • Brexit’s widespread policy changes will expose an unprepared organisation. Start conversations with the business that were once avoided.
  • Use sources to verify data around business planning (CBRE has good material).
  • Use Brexit to your advantage – it’s an opportunity to show the value of HR.

Legislation Change & Employment Law: Hard Brexit vs. Soft Brexit

Hard Brexit:

  • Bringing over a European national for 5yrs will cost £7.5k, which includes home office and associated fees. This amount does not reflect the cost of bringing over family members.
  • The EU has created borders as well. UK nationals now have to apply for immigration with processing times and varying costs for each country.
  • Will employees be able to rent flats on a visa and how do they open a new bank account?
  • What should the business do regarding the right to work?

Soft Brexit:

  • Government is aiming for a two year transition as individuals obtain legal documentation to
    live in the UK.

    • Applications are currently taking six months to process with many applications being rejected without cause.
    • People are being wrongly told that they have to leave the UK.
  • Businesses need to focus more attention on correct documentation and the details of the documents, i.e. right to work documentation
    • We are seeing problems when European nationals/European family members are extending status/applying for jobs. There is no guarantee when their documentation will be processed.

Global Political Friction and its Impact on Immigration Policies

Worldwide we are in a period of political friction and uncertainty. Governments have become disjointed with political parties varying widely in their ideologies, particularly regarding the potential benefits and alleged threats of immigration.

  • There are many competing interests on immigration, i.e. the agricultural sector hires people on a seasonal basis, nurses traditionally are from Europe and overseas, etc.
  • There are different visa restrictions for business visitors dependent on their occupation, which need to be taken into account.
  • There are many tax issues with immigration. The moment someone works in the UK without an appropriate visa, then they are liable for a civil penalty and may lose their sponsorship.

The Future of the UK Talent

Businesses must consider the impact of Brexit on their future, especially their future employees. They must decide what drives the business to success, i.e. is it location-based or is it the ability to do business in a location and how important is getting the right talent in that location? These are hard-hitting questions that a company must answer when preparing for Brexit.

  • How have Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin, etc. adapted in terms of infrastructure, i.e. schooling,
    transport, renting, etc. Are these places already at capacity?
  • What data can a company rely on for sourcing new talent? Look at censuses, benefit
    providers to analyse cost of living expenses, etc.

    • Rely on traditional market data, but be open to informal insights.
  • How has Brexit impacted talent pools throughout Europe?

Brexit may seem like a vote about nationality but ultimately it comes down to people, and how they fit into the new political reality. That’s where HR comes in.

Franki Crosse

Written by ,

Franki joined Oasis HR in January 2014 having graduated from Durham University in Geography & Politics. Following two promotions Franki is now a Senior Consultant on the permanent team with a focus on Generalist roles (HR Business Partners, Heads of HR, HR Directors). Prior to her London move Franki made the most of her 'gap 6-months' competing at British Dressage, travelling South East Asia and qualifying as a leader for the Ski Club of Great Britain. In her spare time she tries to juggle these things whilst making the most of what London has to offer!

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